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Want to Boost Your Acceleration? Try This Strength Move

This is an excerpt from All-Pro Performance Training by Loren Landow & Christopher Jarmon.

Bottom-Up Step-Up

Bottom-up step-ups are a great exercise for developing unilateral lower-body pushing strength in a range that mimics acceleration. When coached properly, this strength exercise can double as a postural acceleration drill.

Acceleration is a vital skill for combine testing and sport performance, and in a short training window such as combine preparation, the best coaches will take advantage of any opportunities to reinforce their athletes’ acceleration posture and positions. In chapter 1, for example, we discussed the importance of cueing active dorsiflexion during many of the active dynamic warm-up exercises, but acceleration skill development can extend even to the weight room.

The athlete stands with a loaded barbell in the barbell back squat position along his upper back (see the barbell back squat exercise description for more detail). At the coach’s discretion, bottom-up step-ups can also be performed with dumbbells instead of a barbell. He stands facing a box that is 16 to 20 inches high but can be adjusted based on the athlete’s lower limb segment lengths.

He begins the repetition by lifting his left knee and placing his left foot on top of the box; his right foot remains flat on the ground and his right leg stays extended through his knee and hip (figure 10.3a). Next, the athlete loads his weight onto his left foot, driving his left foot into the box to extend his knee and hip. This pushing force lifts the barbell and the rest of the athlete’s body up until his left leg is straight.

While his left leg extends, the athlete punches his right foot and knee up into an acceleration A-frame position (figure 10.3b); he makes his right thigh perpendicular to the rest of his body, with his right foot fully dorsiflexed and his right knee flexed at roughly 90 degrees. His finishing position at the top of the box should look just like the PVC A-march drill, except in this scenario the athlete has a barbell sitting on his back instead of a PVC rod or dowel, and his plant foot is up on a box instead of on the ground. After achieving a stable top position, the athlete controls his descent until his right foot reaches the ground, fully completing the repetition.

Throughout the exercise, the athlete’s eyes remain focused straight ahead while he maintains an upright posture through his trunk and shoulders. He completes all prescribed repetitions on one side, then switches to the other leg. He should rack or otherwise lower the barbell between sets, ideally with the help of a coach or training partner. Complete the exercise for 2 to 4 sets of 3 to 5 consecutive repetitions, performed one side at a time.

Figure 10.3 Bottom-up step-up: (a) start position; (b) top position.
Figure 10.3 Bottom-up step-up: (a) start position; (b) top position.